A birthday feast of raw herring? For a 200-pound harbor seal, it’s the perfect treat.
Smoke, a female harbor seal on exhibit at the New England Aquarium, celebrated her 39th birthday this morning.
“She’s chugging right along,” said Tony LaCasse, spokesman for the aquarium. “We’re excited in terms of seeing when she’ll celebrate 40, or if she’ll pull a Jack Benny and make us celebrate her 39th many times.”
She enjoyed the meal, after blowing out the candles stuffed in the herring’s mouths, LaCasse said. Smoke can blow out candles with her nose.
Smoke is the oldest seal the aquarium has ever exhibited. Most harbor seals live into their mid-20s, the aquarium said. Life expectancy is greater for many aquarium and zoo animals because they are neither hunted nor hungry, so their immune systems are stronger, LaCasse said.
"There are two other seals we know of that are over 40, and 40 is very unusual for harbor seals," LaCasse said.
The aquarium’s Marine Animal Rescue Team rescued Smoke when she was a pup in May 1971. Her exact birth date is unknown, but La Casse said she was born in May during the harbor seal pupping season, which runs from May to June.
Though she now has limited vision, Smoke remains active as she uses her whiskers to navigate around the exhibit, LaCasse said. She’s a happy and healthy seal who enjoys the “bottling” position, or wading in the water vertically with her head above water and soaking up the sun.
“It’s the equivalent of being in a rocking chair,” LaCasse said.
She shares the space with her two offspring – Amelia and Reggae – and four other seals.
“She just enjoys life at a very low-key pace, but it’s not in a passive way,” LaCasse said. “It’s an active way.”
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